Yoga and Human Potential

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Yoga is practice of unfoldment of different layers of awareness which man has inherited from his ancient forefathers. They call it human potential. I feel it is awareness, which to an extent means unfoldment and absolute manifestation of something which is called human potential.

How does it manifest and what are its different graduations, what is it from? Sometimes it is felt that the whole thing works like a magic but it is not that. The awareness in every individual is all knowledgeable and all powerful. When you develop this awareness and become aware of it, it turns within you in the form of energy, in the from of power and in the form of knowledge. For instance, animals eat, they slip and keep on moving, but they are not aware of it. They lack the state of witness-ship. The particular act of witnessing ones self is completely absent in them. If they become aware that they were doing something it would mean that they had developed the awareness.

Man is born with awareness. He knows that he knows. He knows that he is working. He is living. He is full of pain and full of happiness. The awareness develops in him in graduation, step by step. Sometimes this awareness develops all of a sudden to such an extent that one just becomes aware of one's own self. One becomes aware of all that has been taking place in the body and in the different spheres of one's psyche. It happens that one becomes aware of oneself like becoming aware of any person, and one experiences two personalities. That is, of course, a supreme form of awareness.

Now, this awareness moves on from physical plane to mental plane, and from mental to psychic plane, and onwards to spiritual plane. There is a method, there is a process, by which the awareness, which is in us, is to be freed from the shackles, with which it is bound.

The awareness is dwelling in the body. It is integrated with the body. It is mixed up with the body awareness and if we want we can develop this awareness from the body, or the body awareness, into the supreme or pure awareness. You are aware of your body now. There is the faculty in you by which you become a witness of your being. You become a witness of the state of physical existence. That particular faculty through which you are aware of yourself, is to be completely separated. So the act of separation, or the whole process of separation, should take place. It is a process by which the spiritual awareness or the fundamental higher awareness, or I may even use the word pure awareness, is to be separated from the lower or local forms of awareness. Then the physical awareness or the awareness that I am aware is to be developed gradually, in stages, through a particular process.

Now, in the development of this awareness what happens? The faculties, the dormant potentialities just express themselves. You do not have to run after those potentialities, as many have been doing it. Even if you are not aware of the fact of potentialities or the great powers or the great abilities that are part and potential of our being, you will develop them.

But the path or the method should be the correct method, should be the right method. We develop a theme or we work out the whole programme point by point, step by step and stage by stage. It has been seen that some people after having read literature on Yoga, just get into a process of disentangling the mind from awareness and there they get into trouble. They have not separated the body idea. They have not separated the experiences of senses, and just they want to separate the mind idea from the fact or faculty of awareness. And in the fact of separating the mental awareness with the pure awareness, what happens, they become almost abnormal. And it has been taking place, because those people think that by separating the mental awareness from the pure awareness, they will develop certain psychic powers, telepathy, clairvoyance, clairaudience and so on.

But the path or the method, should be the correct one, as I have already told, otherwise it will lead to a great harm to the aspirant. The practices of clairvoyance or clairaudience are not just preliminary ones. Before that a lot of programme, a lot of schedule has got to be worked out. We must remember one thing. The awareness is within us. It is complete in itself. The only thing is that we have to give it an opportunity for manifestation. So, if at all there are obstacles or hindrances, we have to remove them.

The sun is shining, but we have cataract in our eyes. We are unable to understand and see the light or the sun. We have to remove the cataract, so we may be able to see the light. In the same way, the awareness which is in us, in all its fullness and always with us, has to manifest through life, through our body, through our actions in such a manner that we may be able to behold it. The supreme awareness is the secret of the great potentiality.

According to certain branches of Yoga, the vehicle of the supreme awareness is a central nerve in the body, which has got connections with different psychic centres, starting right from the bottom of the spinal cord to the top of your brain. It is known as Sushumna, it is a channel, a vehicle which carries this supreme awareness or supreme capacity.

However, this subject of Kundalini Yoga, which believes and, of course, which has proved also, that there are certain physical centres and glands responsible for the manifestation of Supra-physical faculties, is a difficult matter. It needs a careful guidance, a good life, a thorough care, vigilance, alertness and so on.

Another method, however, is to become aware of certain factors. I feel that in this process of Yoga, there is also a corresponding process of separation. The material aspect of our personality is slowly detached in our consciousness. There comes a time when we become absolutely aware and we remain aware not of the physical body, not of the impressions of the mind, but of the supreme awareness, of the pure awareness. It takes time. It is not an easy method. During the stages of manifestation, the faculties inherent in every man express themselves in form of mental, intellectual, psychic and also spiritual experience. But how does Yoga come?

You see, people have always been thinking about Yoga as a peculiar method, where one either becomes capable of drinking nitric acid or walking over fire and water. Some have felt that Yoga is a method of depression. The mental faculties undergo a stage of depression. Yoga has been connected with Hypnotism. Now this has got to be understood very clearly. Whereas in one, there is a process of diminishing of consciousness, in the other, there is an expansion of consciousness.

When you really practice Yoga, you become unaware of the outer events or outer experiences, but proportionately the awareness within becomes more expanded and more and more glorious. Sometimes it is felt that the awareness in the higher stages of meditation are not at all different from this awareness we have now. Here the awareness has for its experience, these objects, the sound and so on. There the objects are absent, only the awareness is present. Here I am aware of all, but there I am aware of my own-self.

So this developed awareness, when it becomes fully developed with this body, mind and senses, then it starts acting or it starts operating in a different sphere. The body becomes the vehicle, the mind becomes the vehicle. It does not remain the actor. The ego, the feeling of 'I', is completely annihilated. So, in this practice of Yoga, as I have told you, there is no possibility of hypnotising oneself. When we undergo a process of hypnotism, there is the extinction of individual awareness. One enters into a state nil. The faculties are deprived of expansion of enlargement.

In Yoga, therefore, what exactly do we do? First of all fix for ourselves an object, it may be subjective, it may be objective, it can be anything. It may be a sound, it may be an idea or it may be a point of an idea. We keep on moving with it. We follow that object. We follow that image. We follow the particular theme of thought, until we leave the idea of becoming aware of the body idea. Then the mind idea remains, but that also is to be transcended. We keep on transcending the different spheres of our consciousness, one by one. Ultimately we come to a phase of consciousness which is devoid of all of their basis, of all other substratum, there is no basis for that awareness.

This is exactly what we mean by Yoga. The communion of the individual self with the cosmic self. But at the same time, it is a complete detachment, it is a complete departure from the outside world into the inside world. But there one thing has to be noted. Just by meditation with your eyes closed when you develop that awareness within it is not sufficient. This has to been seen. Take it for granted from me and also experience it in your life. It is necessary that awareness has to be applied in our day to day life.

Even as you produce a bomb and keep it in your room, you do not make use of it, it remains there. In the same manner through meditation, you heighten and purify your awareness but when the question comes of application in our day to day life, you do not do it. So the daily life and the life in meditation then become two different and contradictory realities. One contradicts the other. If you want that your developed awareness should help you in your spiritual life as also in your material life, your day to day life, i.e. material life, you must know the method of squeezing out a little energy from that fundamental source of awareness and putting it in touch with your day to day activities.

In Yoga, as also in other sciences pertaining to Yoga, there are methods, there are ways and means by which the supreme awareness can be applied. This is called applied Yoga. What I am trying to conclude is that in meditation, the visions, the psychic experiences, they are not everything. They are just symptoms of growing concentration. They are just symptoms to prove that your consciousness is transcending different dimensions and different stages of your awareness. It only means that.

But if you want that this Yoga or awareness should become a fact in life, then you should also know the method of synchronising the spiritual awareness with your day today life. Unless you do that, you will never realize that potentiality.

Therefore, you will find many spiritual aspirants, maybe renunciates or maybe householders, who have gone very deep in meditation and some of them loose complete awareness with the outer body, but they have not been able to accomplish anything. They have not been able to understand anything in life. If you ask them something, they forget. They lack the power of memory, they lack the faculty of understanding. In their case, they have completely dimmed the power of constant awareness. Why is it so?

If they are meditating correctly, and of course, they are meditating correctly in a right way, why does it happen? It only means that their day to day life, the life in the senses, the life in the world and the life in meditation, they become two different lives. Therefore, what exactly should one do? Side by side with the practices of meditation, with the practices of Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga or even Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga, one will have to do Karma.

It is wrong to say that one has to practice Karma Yoga first and one becomes expert in Karma Yoga, then one should take to Bhakti Yoga and then Raja Yoga or Hatha Yoga. No, nothing like that. He will have to practice all these Yogas together and also he will have to understand the right time, the right amount and also the duration, the depth, the intensity and the emphasis. Sometimes, you have to lay a greater emphasis on Karma Yoga.

In case you are an emotional personality and you do not know how to adjust your surplus emotions of life, then you will have to take to Bhakti Yoga. If you are predominantly psychic, then you have to keep on meditating, there should be greater emphasis on meditation. And if you are rational by temperament, then you have to lay emphasis on Jnana Yoga.

In this way, Karma Yoga becomes very important for a spiritual aspirant. It is not only because Karma is necessary in order to earn one's own livelihood, but Karma is necessary order to express that formless awareness, that pure awareness into actual work. You see, as far as I am concerned, it is difficult for me to be eloquent on this topic but somehow or the other I would like to convey to you that the root of all power in man is just awareness. If that particular awareness can be developed by gradual practice and effort, then it will be possible for you to be able to communicate, to be able to circulate, to be able to operate and to be able to correspond with different spheres of reality, maybe physical or mental, spiritual or psychic.

Now coming to one important point on Yoga and this human potentiality. Sometimes what happens is that people develop greater spiritual personality, so much so that they see the divinity everywhere. They see oneness everywhere, it is a stage in spiritual life when awareness is everywhere. You may call it hallucination or a subjective idea, but it is the pure consciousness. One does not find any difference between oneself and the other selves. At that moment, the distinction between man and man drops down. What to talk about bodies and bodies. One does not feel the distinction even between religions, races, colour, sex, groups and so on.

This itself is a great achievement for man. And if this can happen, I think it is the greatest accomplishment and the greatest power that we can bring down to this blessed earth.

There is a method, which is known as Kriya Yoga pertaining to pranayama, mudras and bandhas which seems to have worked out a good lot in those countries where Kriya Yoga was practiced by people. When I came out of India and visited different countries and came to this country also, I found that wherever Kriya Yoga is being practiced, a great change has taken place in the 'grey matter' of the people of that country. And with the change taking place in the physical brain the man has become more psychic than intellectual. Or rather, I may say, with being intellectual, he has become psychic also. I clearly visualise, and I should tell you very frankly as an announcement, that I clearly visualise the coming of psychic race. Shri Aurobindo used to talk of a Supra-mental race and I understand it as Psychic race. It is all the same, it does not make much difference.

Man is now operating on a different plane, he has been operating a few centuries back on physical plane or sensual planes and he has started operating on intellectual plane. Well, we are operating on intellectual planes, but man as a whole, wherever he has been practicing certain methods of Yoga, he started thinking in a way that Yoga used to think some years ago, some centuries and some decades back.

This might bring, and this will bring, a civilization where perhaps millions and millions of people will develop the psychic faculties. I do not mean clairvoyance and clairaudience. It is a state of consciousness from which we act in the world. Lord Buddha, maybe Christ, Mohammed, many other saints, they were working in the world, they did work in the world. That great emperor Marcus Aurelius or the great King Janaka of India, they worked in the world. But they did not work from the psychical plane. They were not operating from intellectual plane either. The plane from where their consciousness was operating was spiritual, or sometimes in certain cases it was psychic.

The saints, the sadhus, the Yogis, the Mahatmas they are also working, they did work previously, may be in the world, amidst the society. But if you clearly understand me the centre, the source, from where they were working, it was not physical or mental or intellectual, it was psychic. The source was the psychic consciousness, the deeper mind, and that is how they could understand things much better than we can today. Scientists, for instance there are many scientists even today, there were certain scientists unto whom came the flashes of intuition. From where did it come? It came from within. Because at the time when the intuition, the flashes, came to them, their personality, their individuality, they themselves were working on a different plane. And this is going to happen to the major part of humanity in the times to come, and the period has already started.

So when we are discussing about Yoga and the human potential, I have to tell you that it is necessary for all of us to start operating on a different level, higher than intellectual, let us transcend intellect. Intellect was a helper, but intellect is a barrier. We will have to transcend it. Intellect has got its own glories, but a time comes when intellect gets confused, it cannot understand anything because the basis of its understanding is logic, it needs certain authorities. So we will have to transcend the intellectual things also.

But before we want to transcend intellect, let us take one foot, a step, into psyche. Because once we are devoid of intellectual understanding and also devoid of psychic faculties, we may be individuals of nowhere.

It is said by the ancestors when you practice scriptures, you must practice Yoga. Or if you practice Yoga, you should not do away with scriptures, side by side both things should go on.

And along with your study of scriptures, intellectual understanding of many factors, and along with the practices of Yoga, it is also necessary that everybody shall practice Karma Yoga. So your spiritual powers, your spiritual accomplishments may find a source or a channel of expression and that is why many great saints, sannyasins, seers of a certain height of realisation of that pure awareness, finding that it was living unused in the higher range, they came down into society. They gave to society something and they gave through their spiritual power, through their higher power.

Yoga is a process of development of that awareness in man. You do it with the help of meditation, you do it with other methods also. And I told you, the method of Kundalini Yoga is a very powerful method, but since in has got its own limitations, its own conditions, I think we are not discussing it at present, but some of the experience. Seers and sages have proved that it is possible to develop the sleeping centres, the dormant centres of our brain by certain Kriyas, practices in Hatha Yoga about which I will have a talk on June 1st. The Bandhas, the contractions or control, the Mudras and other Hatha Yoga methods by which we are able to bring about a change in the glandular functions and also control and arrest some of the poisonous secretions and the brain, which is the centre of all activities, is made to undergo a change through mediation, through control and by various methods of influxes and so on.

I am very gratefully to the organizers of this institution for having given me the wonderful chance of expressing my views on Yoga, and from this platform I feel that I should tell you, that the time has come rather when the world will change. The world is not going to remain materialistic any more.

The emphasis on matter is going to be removed and emphasis on higher life or spiritual life or the life of Yoga is to be awakened and realised. More and more people are trying to realise this fundamental fact. Even those who do not believe in it will have to, because, after all, everybody thinks according to the brain he has and as the grey matter changes so man's thoughts, his conceptions and valuations also changes. If as a whole, throughout the different fields of humanity, the brain is going to change, either due to change in time or due to certain practices or as it has been destined, then we are heading into, we are going into, an area of psyche, the supra-mental race. We wish that this race comes, sooner or later, but one thing comes to my mind often. I do not know if I can express it correctly.

Before that psychic race is accomplished, man will have to fight a very grim battle with his own self. The psychic race will not be established so easily. One has to work out because the first eruption of psyche is complete anarchy, the first complete non-acceptance of the material values. The first explosion or awakening of psyche is complete detachment from the established values of life, the authorities, the orthodoxy of any clime, of any time, of any race, of any age.

I may not like the modern life, I may not like it, this is how it happens. We have felt it when practicing a spiritual life. When the development of awareness took place, we come to this point. We began to think, rather we were compelled to think, what is all this nonsense? Throw it away, discharge it off. But, of course, the time came when we balanced ourselves. That balance is there now, but it was to be or it has to be brought about along with this revolution, with this evolution that is taking place in man's mind, in his life, through the practice of Yoga or by a natural process.

Now if you do not practice Yoga, what will happen. Even though we do not practice Yoga, the process of unfoldment of awareness is going to take place, and it is taking place. Right from the beginning to this day, the awareness has evolved of its own through the laws of nature. And even if we do not practice Yoga, or do not believe in it, or out right condemn Yoga, if we try to evade the practices, the methods, the Yogic life and try to add everything with Yoga, then nature is going to work out its scheme. And what is the scheme of nature? Nature's scheme is that all man shall rise above instinct. The consciousness shall rise above instinct, then above the body, above the senses, then operate through mind, through intellect, and ultimately, it will operate on a higher level. And that higher level is the spiritual level, that is the level of Yoga.

Family life is the training ground for Yoga sadhana but what we see is a different picture altogether. If there is a difference between the minds of both it will be necessary to draw a parallel line and both should be saved from contradictory situations. If the husband is religious and the wife given to pleasures, both these tendencies should be allowed full play.

If the husband is active and the wife idle, it should be ensured that they do not cross each other at any point. In domestic life, where the tastes are common or contradictory, transgressing each other is dangerous. Both of them should be a complement of each other.

- Satyam